Politics and the YouTube generation


I’ve just been looking at the “Kevin07” website. I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. It’s good that politicians are trying to engage their audience in new ways, but doesn’t this all seem a bit cheesy? It’s very patriotic; bright colours, videos of supporters, news… it serves its purpose, I guess. But there’s something commercial about the site which I find off-putting. I know that selling these T-shirts and stickers is a way of showing support, but it seems to trivialise the rest of the site as well.

It also feels very American to me. Not that that’s a bad thing; just makes me feel like I’m looking at Hillary Clinton’s or Barack Obama’s 08 website instead of Kevin Rudd’s. The Kevin07 slogan and “Get Involved” feel more like something from the US as well, and the site’s dominated by red, white and blue… I just feel like I’ve seen it before. I imagined something more unique for Rudd’s campaign, more green and gold… but I guess imitation is the highest form of flattery.

Still, it’s smart. The site speaks directly to Gen X and Y, using a forum they’re familiar with to talk about issues they care about. The simple truth is that every politician needs a web presence now or they’ll be left behind; people will write them off as not being savvy enough. It’s a necessity, but there is practical value in it as well. The whole success of Web 2.0 and YouTube is that they provide content on demand; we can see whole interviews and aren’t just left with what the media wants us to see. For politicians that means avoiding 30 second snippets and being taken out of context, so it’s no great surprise they’re pushing these campaigns.

WC wrote an interesting post the other day which ties into this, about how Hillary Clinton’s ‘cleavage incident’ was portrayed in the media. Really, it was a storm in a teacup, but for some reason the media in the US and overseas (our news as well) just wouldn’t let it go. Some thought her sense of dress wasn’t appropriate, others thought she was being objectified for being a woman – and yet the media can only blame themselves, really, as they brought it down to that level, not anyone else. The thing I noticed was that Clinton seems to be trying to soften her image, wearing paler colours, etc, trying to be more accessible. I think that’s clever; it’ll be interesting to see what her image is like closer to the primaries, and if people have accepted it.

Image seems to matter so much these days. It’s not just about accessibility, but how you can hold someone’s attention for the message you want to deliver. Rudd’s site is all about projecting the right image, and so are the videos Howard has released on YouTube recently; both are trying to promote themselves as the best choice for the future. So given that, it’s sad that a news story of substance was mostly overlooked amidst the fuss of Kevin07’s launch. The Seante just passed a 6.7 per cent salary increase for MPs and senators, while voting against subsidising a rise for pensioners’ income. It means that backbenchers’ pay will now rise by $8000 to $127,000 a year, Kevin Rudd’s to $235,000 and John Howard’s to $330,000 – while pensioners live off $13,652 a year. It’s disgraceful. On the day politicians talk about providing for the future, they reward themselves and turn their backs on the people who most need their help. Amidst all their images, speeches and promises, perhaps that’s what we should remember more than anything else in the lead-up to the election.

4 thoughts on “Politics and the YouTube generation

  1. That’s the thing that really steams me about politics. They try to do anything to get popularity – backstabbing, mudslinging, lying, changing their viewpoints based on media polls, etc – except for the right thing: stating their views, plans and ethics and sticking to them. It’s one big popularity contest. Each voting season comes down to being like American Idol (I live in the US).

    I’d really like to see some honest campaigning without all the fluff talk and flashy bits. But, that’s what the majority wants to see, so I don’t think they’ll stop anytime soon. Yet they wonder why the poll turnouts are so low each time around.

    CJ: I think politics has become a lot more personal now, in the tactics employed to win. I’m not going to say people didn’t fight dirty before, but I remember the Swift Boat controversy surrounding John Kerry in 04 became very personal; now the character of the family is called into question as well as the politician and I don’t like that. Ideally we should be able to make our decisions based solely on the issues and individual views, but as you say, that’s not what holds the majority’s interest… so it’ll always come down to image, popularity, media support, playing the game. That’s what we have to make a decision on, so it’s no wonder it’s hard to be optimistic about any candidate – we never know who they are.

    I should say that the media here have gone after the politicians for the pay rise. It’s come a couple of days late, but at least they’re doing it, so with any luck we might see something promised to pensioners as an election issue. That would be something, at least.

  2. Both of them are terrible and embarrassing efforts to engage with the internet 2.0 generation.

    CJ: There are better ways to engage people and I’d definitely like to see more original content representing their ideas, but at least they’re trying to have a conversation with their audience. That’s what Web 2.0 is all about in the end, conversation, and it’ll be interesting to see how it develops in the future – I can see it being really useful for independents and smaller parties to get their voices heard, to engage with a larger audience.

    Good luck in the election. Be good to see someone new there to keep them honest. 😉

  3. why are most presidential candidates tools and people you cant relate to? Well, why is Dane Cook a popular comedian whilst being such a tool? Dane Cook is a tool and people love him. Thesis: people love tools.

    CJ: What often happens is that the candidate selected to run isn’t necessarily the best candidate, as no election is decided solely on issues or values; candidates have to represent their party and cultivate the right image, be able to generate funds, maintain popularity, garner media support… the candidate who might be more honest and has the best ideas often just doesn’t have the profile to win, so he/she is not selected. And because politicians try to appeal to everyone, you never really know them – so how can you really know who it is you’re voting for?

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